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USAGE: irregular plurals (was: minimal pair ...)

From:John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Date:Saturday, October 26, 2002, 16:32
Nik Taylor scripsit:

> Really? "Computer mice" just sounds weird to me. I haven't had many > opportunities to hear "mouse" in the computer sense pluralized, but > every time I have, it's been "mouses".
Stephen Pinker thinks that this is because irregular inflected forms, unlike regular ones, tend to be associated with particular uses of the plural, since they are stored separately in memory. "Mice" tends to be used in a collective way, not a distributive one (since one mouse is pretty much interchangeable with another most of the time), and we feel funny applying it in a sentence like "Those computers have optical mice". So we regularize, or avoid the construction with "Each of those computers has an optical mouse." Here are some other examples using less novel words: 0a) I set the flagpole on its base. 0b) I set the flag to "true". 1a) The flagpole stood on the top of the mountain. 1b) The cottage stood at the foot of the mountain. 1c) The flagpoles stood on the tops of the mountains. 1d) ?The cottages stood at the feet of the mountains. 2a) This classical-music lover has a sweet tooth. 2b) ?These classical-music lovers have sweet teeth. 3a) Your mother and I dig the Doors. 3b) ?Back in the Sixties, your mother and I dug the Doors. 4a) This job really sucks. 4b) This job really bites. 4c) My last job really sucked. 4d) ?My last job really bit. -- XQuery Blueberry DOM John Cowan Entity parser dot-com Abstract schemata XPointer errata Infoset Unicode BOM --Richard Tobin


Padraic Brown <elemtilas@...>
Nik Taylor <yonjuuni@...>